A Big Boost From Synthethic Surfaces

A Big Boost From Synthethic Surfaces
Photo: Benoit
Big Booster returned to the grass to win the marathon San Juan Capistrano Invitational Handicap.
by Alan Porter 

Since the replacement of California’s dirt tracks by all-weather surfaces, some horses have shown dramatic improvement over the new terrain. On April 20, however, we saw a horse win the biggest race of his life after switching from all-weather back to turf. Following seven straight all-weather starts—some of which had seen him run well against top-class opposition—Big Booster returned to the grass for the marathon San Juan Capistrano Invitational Handicap (gr. II). Closing powerfully from off the pace, Big Booster rallied by 2 1/2 lengths to record the first stakes win of a 43-race career.

For 7-year-old Big Booster, his West Coast story has provided a second act to a career that saw him drop from a stakes runner to a claimer, and then re-emerge as a grade I performer. Bred by Thomas/Lakin/Kintz in Kentucky, Big Booster was sold for $52,000 as a Keeneland September yearling, and resold for $210,000 as a Fasig-Tipton February 2-year-old in training (both the highest price of the year for his sire, Accelerator). Beginning his career in New York in the hands of John Kimmel, for owners Chester and Mary Broman, Big Booster ran three times at 2. A winner at Belmont first time out, he then finished fourth to Read the Footnotes in the Nashua Stakes (gr. III) and fifth to the same horse in the Remsen Stakes (gr. II).

For most of next three years, Big Booster continued to campaign in East Coast turf allowance and stakes company, winning four times and finishing third in the Hill Prince Stakes (gr. III) and Forerunner Stakes, and fourth in the Lexington Stakes and Red Bank Handicap (both gr. III) and the Canadian Turf Handicap. Toward the end of his 5-year-old campaign, however, it appeared that Big Booster’s days as a stakes contender had passed. Dropped into a $35,000/$39,000 claiming event at Belmont on dirt in September 2006, Big Booster showed his appreciation for the easier task with a 1 1/2 length score.

For his next two outings, Big Booster was tried at the $50,000/$75,000 claiming level, finishing second at Belmont, and then unplaced at Aqueduct. Entered for $50,000 at Gulfstream Park in his first race as a 6-year-old, Big Booster won again, but was claimed by trainer Michael Pino, who in turn lost him next time out for $62,500. After one start at Gulfstream for new trainer Peter Walder, Big Booster headed west to the barn of his current trainer, Mike Mitchell. Off the board on his California debut, Big Booster—now a gelding—showed a remarkable upturn in performance first time out on the all-weather surface, winning a Hollywood allowance optional claiming contest from grade I winners Heatseeker and Sinister Minister. Following that effort, Big Booster has run solely in graded stakes, and his performances on that surface include thirds in the Hollywood Gold Cup and Goodwood Stakes (both gr. I) and the Tokyo City Handicap (gr. III). Although Big Booster went back to the turf to achieve his maiden stakes victory, given the overall level of his recent form, we’d have to give some of the credit for the revitalization of his career to all-weather tracks.

Big Booster is the only black-type winner to represent Accelerator. Although he died after siring just two U.S. crops (and seven named foals in Turkey in 2003-04), it is somewhat surprising that the son of A.P. Indy should have made so little impact at stud. Out of the Mr. Prospector mare Get Lucky, Accelerator was bred on the same cross as A.P. Indy’s leading stallion sons Pulpit and Malibu Moon  , and Horse of the Year Mineshaft  . Accelerator’s dam, herself a graded stakes winner, was a sister to champion 2-year-old and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and Travers Stakes (both gr. I) winner Rhythm (himself something of a disappointment at stud). However, Get Lucky was also a sister to Not For Love  , who has become a standout sire in Maryland despite relatively modest achievements as a runner, and closely related to the highly successful Woodman. Accelerator also had more than useful credentials as a runner: he won only one stakes event, the Pilgrim (gr. III)—which he took as an "off the turf" contest—but was also second in the Wood Memorial Stakes (gr. II), and third in four other graded events, including the Metropolitan Mile (gr. I).

Big Booster’s dam, the Topsider mare Waterside, was probably one of the better-credentialed mares covered by Accelerator in his short stud career. An earner of over $100,000, she won four races, as well as taking second in the Linda Vista Handicap (gr. III) and third in the Silver Belles Handicap (gr. II). Waterside produced nine foals, all of which won. Only one other of her offspring, Villa Girl, captured a black-type event—three minor stakes at Assiniboia Downs between 1993 and 1995. Waterside also had a stakes-placed daughter named Sandra’s Song (by Accelerator’s sire, A.P. Indy). The mare’s modest produce record combined with her age at the time—she was 18 years old—probably explains her assignation with Accelerator.

Waterside does appear as granddam of two stakes winners, and she is also half-sister to black-type winners Justin N. (by Topsider’s half-brother, Brogan) and Free Water, the latter a son of Danzig who was also group-placed in France. Accelerator’s second dam, Talk Out, a daughter of the Australian star Tobin Bronze, is half-sister to Media, a capable runner who won three times in 10 starts and ran second to champion Wajima in the Travers Stakes (gr. I) and third in the Wood Memorial Stakes (gr. I). Speak Freely, the dam of Media and Talk Out, was a half-sister to the Demoiselle Stakes (gr. III) victress Free Journey, the only Northern Hemisphere graded stakes winner to appear under the first four dams prior to Big Booster. Speak Freely’s fourth dam, Equilette, was a sister to Equestrian, sire of the great handicap horse of the 1940s, Stymie. Equilette founded an outstanding family in her own right and is ancestress of champion fillies Silver Spoon and Tersa; Kentucky Derby hero Gato Del Sol; and group and grade I winners Coined Silver, Banquet Table, State Dinner, Silver Buck, Germany, Catinca, Unshaded, Verbena Rak , and Rock Hard Ten.

Big Booster is rated A++ by TrueNicks, and he follows Wend as the second graded stakes winner by a son of A.P. Indy out of a Topsider mare. There are at least seven other stakes winners featuring Seattle Slew in the sire and Topsider in the dam, including grade I winner Lazy Slusan, and Topsider also sired grade I winner Fraar out of a mare by Seattle Slew. There is one particularly obvious connection between the pedigree of Seattle Slew and Topsider, as Seattle Slew’s broodmare sire, Poker, and Topsider’s dam, the stellar turf mare Drumtop, are both by Round Table out of mares by Nasrullah.

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